HE Power List: the election effect

Following the General Election results, it seems a good time to revisit our Power List. What impact has it had on the politicians in our top 50 and what prospects do they have for next year’s list?

George Osborne – 1st (2015)

Back as Chancellor the Exchequer with the added title of First Secretary of State – making him David Cameron’s de facto deputy. After a stunning election win, he is at the height of his powers and is expected to play the leading role in the UK’s renegotiation of its membership of the EU – something that will have dramatic implications for universities. The March 2016 Spending Review might also bring pain and policy shifts, his market-based expansion of HE numbers will continue, and he’s likely to do his best to protect science in the carnage to come across Whitehall.

Prospect for next year’s Power List: Likely to be ranked highly.

Theresa May – 2nd (2015)

May is the key reason the sector is now nervous about what this Parliament will hold. She’s back in the Home Office with a renewed mandate to tackle immigration, privacy and free speech issues having laid it all out in the Conservative’s manifesto, put to the country and on which the party won fair and squarely. Her powers are stronger in every way and her battles with the sector will no doubt intensify.

Prospect for next year’s Power List: Will fight it out with Osborne for top billing.

Ed Miliband – 3rd (2015)

After Labour’s drubbing at the polls, Miliband has left the leadership of the Labour Party. His £6,000 fee policy now completely obsolete and consigned to the dustbin of policy history. His manoeuvres on fees caused intense consternation in the sector – who are now breathing a sigh of relief that they do not have to renegotiate fees next week.

Prospect for next year’s Power List? No hope at all. 

Jeremy Heywood – 4th and John Kingman – 5th

Their influence in Whitehall is likely to continue in this Parliament as their respective masters now have an even-firmer grip on power.

Prospect for next year’s Power List: Likely still to be the power behind the throne(s).

Jean Claude Junker – 7th (2015)

Not a household name in the UK yet, but with an EU referendum looming, his negotiations with David Cameron and George Osborne over the coming period could shape the future of our entire nation. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Likely to rise.

David Willetts – 8th (2015)

Now out of Parliament, Willetts will be a regular feature on the HE scene in his various policy, academic and think tank roles. More critically though, he’s said to be heading up Boris Johnson’s policy operation, building a leadership platform for a potential future Tory leader. If all goes according to plan, then Willetts could be an even more important figure in future years.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Could defend his 2015 ranking.

David Cameron – 9th (2015)

The triumphant Prime Minister has never been more powerful. How he wields it will matter to the sector – pay close attention, particularly as the battles over EU membership hot up.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Could rise further.

Vince Cable – 10th (2015)

Having lost his seat in the shock collapse of the Liberal Democrats, Cable is out of Parliament and out of BIS. His political career is over, but he could re-invent himself elsewhere and with lots of experience and a high profile, there’s lots of interesting things he could do. Professor of Economics perhaps?

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Would do very well to feature at all.

Danny Alexander – 12th (2015)

Another casualty of the Lib Dem collapse and SNP surge. He’s out of Parliament and out of power. The private sector awaits.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Nil.

Ed Balls – 13th (2015)

One of the big shocks of election night, Balls lost his seat thanks to UKIP’s strong advance against previously Labour working class voters in the North. Popular in the Labour Party, and with a high profile, he still needs to completely re-invent himself. Likely to spend some time managing his wife’s bid to become leader of the Labour Party. Then Mayor of London perhaps? I wouldn’t bet on it. But it’s not the last we’ve seen of him.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Very unlikely to feature.

Greg Clark – 18th (2015)

Unlikely to be reappointed to the HE and science brief, at time of writing, he hasn’t yet been given a ministerial job. If he did end up back in the HE saddle, then with a possible Bill and lots of action in the spending review, his standing could seriously increase. But right now it’s hard to tell.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Either up, or off entirely.

Chuka Umunna  – 21st (2015)

Odds on favorite to be next leader of the Labour Party. Either way, he will play a big part in the Labour opposition years ahead, but it’s unknown if he will do anything in the HE space at all. 6k was a nightmare for him and the party needs to completely reset its policy in this space.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? One to keep a close eye on.

Liam Byrne – 23rd (2015)

Although he increased his majority in his Birmingham seat, the 2015 election campaign was a torrid nightmare for Byrne as the Conservatives used his famous note ‘there’s no money left’ at every available opportunity, to support their narrative about Labour’s economic incompetence. Clearly riddled with shame and regret, he’s apologised again for this mistake, but many in the party will never forgive him for his part in Labour’s downfall. But a big policy brain, and a hard worker, it’s unlikely that the next Labour leader wont put him to work in some form.

Prospects for next year’s Power List? Unlikely to feature.  

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